Management Tips for a Gender-Diverse Workforce

September 18, 2019



When one looks at the state of the global travel industry today (strong) and projections for the future (even stronger), one sees that cultures and languages are being exchanged at record rates. The accessibility of air travel has a lot to do with this, as does a growing appetite for travel in densely-populated countries like India and China.


We can also point to the internet – the fact that information is freely available – and the fact that yesterday’s reservation at a bricks-and-mortar travel agent can now be made whilst feeding ducks at the park.


The blogosphere has further expanded the global travel industry. Countless nomads have garnered followers (and in many cases, advertising revenue) with their travel blogs. A far greater number of people document their adventures on Instagram, where travel experiences are often stylised and used as status symbols.


Finally, we can point to the diversification of the services offered by the travel industry itself - especially in the hospitality world. The rise of the share-economy spurned what is more or less a complete re-think of professional hospitality. It created an atmosphere where no aspect of the guest experience is safe from innovation.


The point of this setup is to demonstrate that the global travel industry is a natural incubator for inclusion and diversity. People travel to experience new people and places. We travel – many of us, at least – to expand our view of the world.


In 2020 and beyond, an expanded view of the world includes not only a diversity of races and cultures, but of gender identities. As hotel managers, we should keep this in mind as we build and manage teams.


Of course, the human reasons for this aren’t in doubt –people deserve to be included and treated with respect, no matter how they happen to identify on the gender spectrum. But is it good for business to have a more dynamic and informed approached to gender-diversity in the workforce? This is a question that needs to be asked from a hotel management standpoint. Consider four examples:


  • A 2015 study from McKinsey & Company surveyed 366 public companies in the UK, Canada, Latin America and the U.S. It found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians,” and that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely” to enjoy the same.


  • A 2014 study looked at financial professionals in Singapore and the U.S. Subjects were grouped into teams, some of which were ethnically diverse and some of which were not. Ethnically diverse teams were better at pricing stocks correctly, while homogenous groups were more liable to make pricing errors.


  • A 2011 study surveyed R&D teams at 4,277 Spanish companies over a period of two years. It found that teams with a higher proportion of women were more likely to bring substantial innovations to market.


  • A 2005 study from Tufts University involved 200 subjects divided into six-person juries for a series of mock trials. Some of the juries were racially diverse and others were not. The data showed that racially diverse groups cited more facts and made fewer factual errors during their deliberations. 


These studies, and many others like them, suggest that diverse professional teams are more likely to maintain objectivity, pursue facts, and come up with good innovations. Granted, the diversity discussed in most of these studies is limited to racial diversity and the diversity of women and men – but there is every reason to think that LGBTQI diversity generates the same benefits, even if specific research to that effect is less than abundant.


What is evident is that many corporations have promoted and embraced gender diversity for the benefit of their organisation. The more cynical observer might say that this has been a purely financial exercise; the more enlightened would recognise that society no longer operates on a strictly binary bias and hence if they are to be truly a part of their community then they must recognise these changes and welcome all. So, what can and should hotel managers do to foster and manage teams that are gender-diverse, in a professional landscape where this diversity is inevitable?


One of the most obvious things might be to establish a clear policy of non-discrimination. According to recent research, 85% of Fortune 500 companies have specific policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. In the hotel world, Accor, IHG and Marriott all have programs to support and include staff no matter how they identify. Establishing such a position, and making it known in your recruitment efforts and training programs, is the obvious way to create a baseline of inclusion.


Managers should think more about employee diversity training that includes specific content around gender identity. Some employees will require this information more than others, and no two situations will be exactly alike – but it’s our job as managers to make sure that respect and inclusion are extended in all directions.


Hotels are in a good position to support LBGTQI events and community groups – this is another way to send a message of inclusion, both to the community and to our employees.


The simple fact is that the talent pool – as well as the guest pool – is now openly populated by people with a wider range of gender identifications. This goes hand-in-hand with a general increase in global tourism and cultural exchange. To celebrate and welcome that diversity – not only in words, but within the fabric of our hotel operations – puts us in a better position to innovate and grow.


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